Writing Inspiration From Video Games

Writing Inspiration From Video Games

Tales of the Abyss
Tales of the Abyss (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My favorite game of all time is Tales of the Abyss by Namco Bandai. Tales games tend to be very character oriented. Each character has his/her own story arc and even quests pertaining to more story information–and these are quests you often want to do because the characters are already so compelling that you continuously want to know more about them. What I love most about Tales of the Abyss is that not only is there focus on the protagonists but even the antagonists have their own stories that make you really feel for them. This is common in Tales games, but is especially emphasized in Tales of the Abyss.

Tales games are the reason I began focusing on developing background stories for my antagonists. Tales of the Abyss, in fact, inspired me to do two short stories of two antagonists in When Stars Die. I hope to include those with the novel, if possible. The antagonists in the sequel have their own arcs as well, and they won’t be separate short stories but actually included within the novel. In books that deal heavily in gray areas, especially if it’s fantasy or paranormal or a similar genre, I appreciate it when my antagonists are as developed as my protagonists because it certainly solidifies that gray area, that idea that there is no real evil in this book, that it’s all subjective.

Video games for me have been a legitimate source of inspiration for my stories, especially  story-centric video games. The first Baten Kaitos (also by Namco Bandai) inspired a character concept in When Stars Die’s sequel. Zelda: Twilight Princess inspired a character in the sequel to WSD–unfortunately said character no longer exists, but he was compelling in his own right. Chrono Cross inspired an old novel of mine in the past, and I one day want to re-visit the concept when I have the time.

Video games have also helped to improve my storytelling skills. Video games once used to be about gameplay, but now gamers are demanding more and looking for stories as well. I think this is a great thing because it’s one more medium we writers can use to hone our skills. I analyze the stories in the video games I play. I analyze how the plot develops, how characters develop, how each part of the story is told. I am currently analyzing Ni No Kuni, and I love the concept so far. Shadar, an evil wizard, I presume, has the ability to break people’s hearts, and by doing so, these people often become depressed. So it’s up to little Oliver to restore people’s hearts by drawing from the essences of others who have plenty of heart to give. I find that concept fascinating because I can see it working in a novel, especially if Diana Wynne Jones were alive today to write such a novel. Granted, the video game elements would obviously have to be removed, but the story is very effective in its own right. I can see why the game is so popular.

If you’re a writer and a gamer, I say use that to your advantage. Really analyze the stories of the games you play. Allow yourself to draw inspiration from the games you play. And if you’re not a gamer, you should give gaming a shot. Not only is it fun, but it’s another story that you can collect in your life. Tales of the Abyss was a game I never wanted to end. The story for me was unbelievable.

Good Vs. Evil or The Gray in Between?

Good Vs. Evil or The Gray in Between?

Ni no Kuni
Ni no Kuni (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have fallen in love with the PS3 game Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. The story is very reminiscent of the stories the dearly-departed Dianna Wynne Jones would write, and that is what is so wonderful about this game. I have only just begun playing it, but Oliver’s character has already captured my heart, and the entire world of Ni No Kuni is so whimsical it’s hard to resist such a fantasy.

Of course, the story does play upon a few arguable clichés. Oliver is the Pure-Hearted One meant to save the world from the forces of evil. It’s been done a lot of times before, but there is just something so charming about this trope, something that makes it so popular amongst our world of grays. Oliver is by no means a perfect character. He’s a heartbroken boy, only in this adventure in the hopes of resurrecting his mother, who died of a weak heart. But I see so much of myself in him because he is willing to help out those that he is able to aide. I think we get so bogged down in the grays of our world that we forget blacks and whites do exist. Nobody is perfect, but there are people who exist who would give a limb to help out another human being, even a stranger. And then there are people who are just plain evil, people the media loves to humanize–but, really, some people do not deserve humanizing at all. There are no justifications for harming innocent human beings, no matter what your religion or cult or whatever tells you. You have a complex brain for a reason. Use it.

Of course, life is not so simple as that. If there were a train about to hit a track full of kids and you could throw one person in front of the train to save them, would you do it? I think I’d throw myself in front of that train so I wouldn’t have to sacrifice anyone.

My book When Stars Die is a book full of grays. Arguably there is no true villain. I wrote this book in a time when the young adult section was filled with blacks and whites. I wanted to throw a bit of gray in there. Now the YA section is chock-full of grays, but the one thing I love about my current WIP Stolentime is that I bring back the black and white. Gene is good, the villain is evil. The villain only needs a little bit of background information, but the villain’s existence is just pure evil. Gene is not perfect. He struggles with treatment-resistant depression and so his thinking can become dangerous, but his heart is filled with good intentions when it comes to other people. It’s very fairytale-like, much like Ni No Kuni. Stolentime is a basic reflection of depression. Depression can infuse black and white thinking in you, and so I want this WIP to be black and white. And I find absolutely nothing wrong with this. There might be a few grays, but in the book, it’s clear who is in the wrong and who is it in the right.

I think the good vs. evil trope is so popular still because we sometimes get tired of humanizing people who don’t deserve to be humanized. We want to believe they are just plain evil because that is the simplest explanation for their actions. I think we also get tired of good people being torn down because of one mistake. They’re human, but they are still good-hearted people. I like to believe I’m a good-hearted person that exists in the white spectrum of the good vs. evil trope. I don’t like imagining myself in the gray spectrum because to do that suggests that if I do do something to harm another person, I do so with a reason, and I am not about harming another person at all. I believe there is no reason to harm another person, even for some petty vengeance or to get what you want. I can’t imagine tearing down another person so I can better my own life.

What’s your preference? Good vs. evil, or the gray in between?